Streamers365

Today, January 1, 2012 is the day that fellow tier and friend from Canada, Darren MacEachern, officially started his pet project titled: Streamers365. This is an online gallery of streamers that will continue for a full year, featuring feather wing patterns. New patterns will be posted each day for the entire year. Notes on pattern origin, history, and recipes will be included. Today began the project with famous Maine resident Herb Welch’s Black Ghost, featuring four versions of the fly tied by Jim Warner, Bob Petti, Bob Frandsen, and Don Bastian. I have added a link to Streamers365 under “Links” at the top right of my blog page. Please visit this site for more information on this project. Or click this link: http://streamers365.com/

I also want to note that this wool body version of the Black Ghost is one of six patterns on my DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. The DVD is available to order on MyFlies.com. Here is s direct link to the product page for this DVD: http://www.myflies.com/Traditional-Streamers-and-Bucktails-P622.aspx

Happy New Year to every one! I wish you all health, success, peace, and good fishing!

Below is the photo Darren took of my Black Ghost, he just sent it to me to post here.

Black Ghost, Size #1 8x long, wool body version

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The Gray Ghost…

Gray Ghost streamer dressed by Don Bastian, and assembled wings for 1/2 dozen more. The hook is a Gaelic Supreme.....Rangeley Style streamer, size #1 - 8x long.

The Gray Ghost – unquestionably the most popular streamer pattern ever created. It has deservedly been tied and photographed to death, well no it hasn’t, in my humble opinion. People still love the Gray Ghost!
The Gray Ghost lives on! Here’s a little something I did to create a different photo image —
The 12 assembled wings surrounding the Gray Ghost streamer in the center are for a customer order of 1/2 dozen Gray Ghosts – (remember that fellow whose wife fished the collectible $15 Gray Ghost tied on the antique Edgar Sealey streamer hook…in the Adirondacks?). It’s in one of the other topics here on my blog along with photos of the nice trout she caught on it.

These assembled Gray Ghost wings are for his flies, they are made for #4 and #6 Mustad 3665A 6x long hooks (which was the old designation before the “S” series modified and changed the 3665A to a 7x specification.

Gray Ghost streamer and assembled Gray Ghost wings.

Gray Ghost tied by Don Bastian on size #1 - 8x long Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hook.

Here is the original Stevens pattern recipe for the Gray Ghost:

Thread: White Danville 6/0 Flymaster. Carrie used white thread underneath her light-colored floss bodies; this prevented darkening when wet from wrapping floss bodies over the black working thread generally in use at the time.

Hook: Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style Size #1 to #8.

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Dressed thin with orange silk floss (or rayon floss).

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel.

Belly: 5 – 6 strands peacock under which is a small bunch of white bucktail; both peacock and bucktail should be as long as or nearly as long as the wing.

Throat: A golden pheasant crest feather as long as the shoulder and curving upward.

Wing: A long golden pheasant crest feather as long as the wing, and curving downward, followed by four gray hackle feathers.

Shoulder: A Silver Pheasant body feather on each side.

Cheek: Jungle cock.

Head: Black with red band. The band on this fly has been painted on with red lacquer. Please see my older topic discussing Carrie Stevens’ head banding technique and my views on its use. I believe to keep the Carrie Stevens patterns fully accurate to the last detail of their original designs that the various colors of bands should be used. The topic I wrote on that presents I believe, credible evidence to support my view.

Since this fly photo was taken I have changed all Stevens head bands entirely to the use of thread and some proprietary techniques to achieve the best results. A few of the older Stevens patterns I posted here and elsewhere on the internet have no banded heads on them.

Traditional Streamers and Bucktails

Gray Ghost, Supervisor, Barnes Special, Black Ghost, Footer Special, Mickey Finn. Dressed by Don Bastian on Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hooks, size #2 - 8x long.

These streamer flies were recently tied by me. These six patterns are the ones from my DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. This is the first time I have ever taken a group shot of them. The gray feathers in the Gray Ghost wing are from an old natural dun neck I had, bought probably well over twenty-five years ago. Unfortunately the larger feathers for big hooks are depleted, though I may be able to tie up some size #6 and smaller streamers from it yet.

The DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails, is available on MyFlies.com. Here is a direct link to review the DVD information or place an order on my merchandise page of the site: http://www.myflies.com/Traditional-Streamers-and-Bucktails-P622.aspx Each order comes direct to me and will receive my personal attention.

In comparing this shade to some of the original Gray Ghost streamers tied by Carrie Stevens, this shade of dun gray feather is very similar to some of those that she had used when she was dressing her original Gray Ghosts. (Source for the photo comparisons: Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, by Graydon Hilyard and Leslie Hilyard, and Forgotten Flies, 1999 – Complete Sportsman.

Carrie originated the Gray Ghost, and also was known to have tied the Supervisor and Black Ghost for her customers, as she tied numerous popular patterns of the time that she did not originate.

The Footer Special was originated by Maine taxidermist David Footer, the Mickey Finn by fellow Pennsylvanian John Alden Knight (who also originated The Solunar Tables), and the Barnes Special is the creation of C. Lowell Barnes as an adaptation of the Hurricane streamer. Mr. Barnes was a guide in the Sebago Lake Region of Maine.

The photo below is a double-shot version of these patterns:

Double-vision photo of the Black Ghost, Supervisor, Mickey Finn, Gray Ghost, Footer Special, and Barnes Special. I had not previously noted that these Black Ghosts are a wool-body version. I saw that somewhere, and for the sake of patterns and tying variation, included this version in my DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. These hooks are size #2 - 8x long Gaelic Supreme, Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer hooks.

Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

An assortment of Carrie Steven’s streamer patterns tied by Don Bastian including the Gray Ghost, Charles E. Wheeler, General MacArthur, Judge, Don’s Delight, Colonel Bates, Blue Devil, etc. Most of them are tied on the fine English-made Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style size #1 8x long hooks.

Let me say right off the top – I am far from an expert on this. Nevertheless I’d like to share my experience and what I have learned during a recent fly tying tour de force of these streamers.

Please refer to my post of last week titled; Streamer Four-Packs where I discussed my experience of tying Carrie Seven’s patterns … as I have off and on since the late 1960’s. For example, the Gray Ghost was in my streamer wallet, bracketed in sizes #4 through #12, tied by me on the old Mustad 3665A 6xl hooks when I was still in high school.
I finally did a few sets of streamer wings in June 2011 by cementing them for the very first time…and I decided to do this when my usual technique – tie in the wing, then the shoulder, then the cheek, using no glue, which has worked real well for me 98% of the time, did not work to my satisfaction. I was working on my first-ever Big Ben, and it was those golden pheasant tippet shoulder feathers that were giving me fits. They just didn’t want to lay down, not to mention stay straight.

After cementing my first set of streamer wings with Angler’s Corner cement provided by another tier, (I would have used Flexament but had none at the time), I settled on the use of Elmer’s Rubber Cement. It was the only option available to me, since my Flexament had thickened, I had no thinner, and the nearest fly shop is 22 miles one-way from my home. Ever since that first cemented wing, I have cemented the components on every streamer wing I have made ever since. I conducted tests in June of 2011, soaking cemented wings in water for up to 36 hours, and violent physical shaking to try to make the wings fall apart, which were unsuccessful. For test results on the Elmer’s Rubber cement, see: https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/carrie-stevens-streamers-cementing-wings/

Prior to my use of cement on streamer wings I always tied the wings in first, then the shoulders and cheeks, all one at a time. In the video segment of the Gray Ghost wing and other streamers in my DVD – Traditional Streamers and Bucktails –  there was no editing or second attempts there, as I set the wings on the Black Ghost, Barnes Special, and Gray Ghost in that order, I was even a little surprised during filming that my first attempt setting all these wings went off without a hitch. Without cement, the best method is to leave hackle barbs on the butt ends of your trimmed wing hackles, group them together, and tie them in with tight wraps, tying in both stems and some of the fibers at the base of the barbs. The attached barbs prevent twisting of the stems. To confirm this procedure and its success, watch the DVD.
So the wing assembly – gluing ahead of time, when I did finally do it; was a last resort to “keep it together” in a situation where setting the entire wing in stages of construction wasn’t going off without a hitch.
Guess what? I liked it. So I started doing it, all the time. One after another. Perhaps it takes more time collectively to tie the Carrie Stevens patterns this way than sans gluing, because of the time you spend selecting, pairing, matching, etc…but the tie-in of the preassembled wings is for me, takes ten seconds or less. I do it just like my wet fly wings, no soft wraps; pinch tight, make all tight wraps from the start, stems placed slightly above the center line of the sides of the head, the inside stems of each wing assembly are actually placed together; a slight tilt toward you to oppose the thread torque, and they’re good to go…only a few times so far have I needed to reset them and try again…

The fact that I (or another experience fly tier) am suddenly doing things differently isn’t surprising – I was forty years old before I learned to like bananas. Previously I hated ’em. I used to think like this: “How do you ruin a good fruit salad? Add bananas!” I’ve been eating bananas since 1992.

So to follow up on this: I have been converted.  I know, shocking…truth is, I’ll probably never again tie a Carrie Stevens pattern, or perhaps other New England style streamers that are similar in design, without cementing the wing components together. This change in my mindset all happened in a matter of a few days, as I began this process, using the Stevens method, building wings one-by-one. This change came about as a result of a fellow tier’s suggestion, but I learned twenty years ago that even novice and intermediate tiers are capable of providing good advice or a better method of a certain procedure to tiers with more years of experience.

Doing this, I have found that even patterns such as the Victory, Jungle Queen, Merry Widow, and Firefly that lack shoulders but still have jungle cock cheeks are made to better advantage for tying, and the construction of the integrated cement lends added stability to the front portion of the wing. There is less flip-flopping of the individual feathers in the wing when the front portion, say 25% of the stem length is bound to the adjacent feather(s) with cement. The cement should be kept shorter than the length of the shoulder, lacking a shoulder, then no longer than shy of the tip of the jungle cock nail cheek.  I’ve been using Elmer’s Rubber Cement; basically because I had no other alternative adhesive available at the time, and I like it. It does not bleed through much at all. When properly applied any bleed-through of the cement is concealed underneath the enamel portion of the jungle cock cheek. Some of the Stevens and other New England style patterns use six hackles in the wings. I use the cement only along the stem, I don’t suggest spreading it out across the sections into the barbs of the feather away from the stem.
My recent reading and study of the Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard has also influenced me on this. I confess – I bought it new when it came out, but all I ever did was read through the photo captions and look at the pictures. I missed a lot by not reading it sooner.

Speaking from the position of my experience of being stubborn about my previous method; I’ve said this before: as a fly tier, never assume you know everything, or don’t close your mind to another method. We can always learn from others. I like Poul Jorgenson’s quote, “Fly tying is a school from which no one ever graduates.” I was exposed to something new to me, and rather than face it closed-minded, I learned from the experience. Learning new methods is sometimes hard for me to do. Fly tiers can be like that occasionally, dare I say a little stubborn? Set in our ways? Whatever, it makes us what we are.

In the last four days I have tied over 24 different Stevens patterns, and made wings for more than 30 more streamers, some are repeat patterns already tied, and others are for patterns that I have never previously dressed. Last night I made six sets of Gray Ghost wings for #2 & #4 Mustad 3665A’s; these were ordered by my customer Rich, who bought that $15 Gray Ghost tied on the antique Edgar Sealey 1797J Hook and allowed his wofe to fish it in the Adirondacks! Ha! See the post on my blog of their Adirondack fishing success. https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/wet-fly-fishing-testimonial/

Consider the General MacArthur and Green Beauty, for example – the last time I tied these particular patterns was in 1987. I remember that because it was October of that year when, for the Pennsylvania State Council of Trout Unlimited Annual Banquet & Seminars that was held in my hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I presented my first-ever slide program. It was a presentation (albeit abbreviated) on New England Style streamer flies. I had tied flies from Joseph Bates book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, such as the Green Beauty, Nine-Three, Bolshevik, Black Ghost, Ballou Special, and Colonel Bates, and included them in my program.

Completed wing assemblies by Don Bastian for Carrie Steven’s streamer patterns; some are: Gray Ghost, Jitterbug, Merry Widow, Davis Special, General MacArthur, Don’s Special, Embden Fancy, Colonel Fuller, Larry, Shang’s Special, Golden Witch, Green Beauty, Governor…I typed it from memory, so the list is incomplete as to what I actually here. Most were sized for Gaelic Supreme size #1 8x long Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hooks., though some of them, are smaller. There’s a couple General MacArthur and America wings here that are matched for 6x long Mustad 3665A hooks. I literally tied ’em and tossed ’em, well, rather gently, laid them here. They are right under the jaws of my Regal Stainless Steel C-clamp vise. This was not a set up shot.

Many of these patterns are new to me – the Jitterbug, Davis Special, White Ghost, Governor, Allie’s Special, Allie’s Favorite, Charles E. Wheeler, Don’s Special, Embden Fancy…they are beautiful, more so in real life when you tie one yourself than in photos. This is a renewal of this aspect of fly tying interest for me.
It’s a good thing I have a bunch of the necessary materials previously accumulated in my cache of tying stuff. The reality is that many Carrie Stevens patterns were new to everyone. Prior to the release of Hilyard’s book in 2000 and Forgotten Flies in 1999, few people were aware of the extentsive number of patterns Carrie Stevens actually created.
I took these photos quick, the one of the assemblies was hand-held, and I only took a few shots. I present them here exactly as the flies & wings lie on my tying table. (Which is extremely cluttered). And by the way, none of the heads are finished yet with the matched banding of colors, which I will do before I consider them complete. My explanation on that is in the Streamer Four-Packs topic. https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/streamer-four-packs/

Some new photos added below on August 4, 2011:

Assembled wings for the Jenny Lind; note the slight variation of the shade of blue. Many of the Carrie Stevens original flies reveal differences of colors. Like fly tiers of today she was limited on occasion to availability of feathers and different dye lots. It is not always possible to obtain the same color of feathers. These wings were selected from two different capes, both labeled as Silver Doctor Blue; one set from a neck, the other from a saddle. I think either shade is acceptable; Carrie’s original Jenny Lind streamers tend toward a light, pale blue. The hooks are Mustad 3665A (traditional) the big one is a size #2. These wings were made for Nos. 6 and 8.

Canary at top, dressed on a Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hook – size #1 8x long. Below are three Jungle Queen Streamers dressed on the same hook, a smaller size #6 – 8x long. Tied by Don Bastian.

Pink Lady (top) and Don’s Delight, both dressed on Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hooks, size #1 – 8x long. Tied by Don Bastian.

Canary and Davis Special, dressed on Gaelic Supreme Hooks – size #1 – 8x long. The shoulder is a little short on the Davis Special; this example is my first dressing of this particular pattern. Tied by Don Bastian.

Victory – size #2 – 8x long, tied by Don Bastian.

I tied this Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern up last night – the Victory. After a final (third) coat of head cement this morning it’s done. I’m getting it in today’s mail to Ted Patlen of New Jersey; Ted always does the framing of the flies every year for the raffle plate of flies for the International Fly Tying Symposium this November in Somerset, New Jersey. This year the Symposium is on November 19th and 20th. This is my donation fly for this year’s Celebrity Tier’s Fly Plate:

The Victory:

Thread: Red #56 or white #1 Danville Flymaster 6/0.

Hook: Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hook

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Rib: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Red floss

Belly: White bucktail

Hackle: Red

Wing: Two light blue hackles flanked by two gray hackles

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Red, white, and blue, Danville 6/0 Flymaster thread (note: Danville no longer makes a blue thread in Flymaster 6/0)

The wing was cemented in my “new” fashion, (new for me anyway).  This was one of the four patriotic-themed streamer patterns that Carrie created in the 1940’s.

The Pirate Streamer, another Carrie Stevens creation, tied by Don Bastian on Size #1 Gaelic Supreme Streamer Hook.

Streamer Four Packs

Hey everyone – I know I have just about always posted wet flies here.
Here is something different: some streamers, eight of them in two four-packs.
I am trying a new packaging arrangement for the shows this year, so the first photo features a Carrie Steven’s Quartet; the Gray Ghost, Merry Widow, Big Ben (the first actual fly where I cemented the wings beforehand), and America.

Gray Ghost, Merry Widow, Big Ben, and America.

They are mounted (wired) onto my streamer cards, (old phone number – don’t call it!), which are glued to card-stock, and packed in small gift boxes.

Update added July 29: Last night and this morning I was tying more Stevens’ patterns, and also reading the Graydon and Leslie Hilyard book, Carrie Stevens – Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies (2000, 2011 – Stackpole Books); and noticed some photos of early authentic Carrie Stevens patterns. One was Pattern No. 11 and it is “wired” onto the card through the eye and at the bend, like I mounted these. Other fly tiers of the New England tradition actually used to “staple” their flies to the card, sometimes right through the cellophane sleeve locking the hook in place. The was done for expedience; hey, they were just fishin’ flies. I believe the wire idea is the best, though requiring a bit more effort. It certainly provides for the best presentation of the fly. I had previously used this same method to mount flies to mat board for framing, starting back about 1998, and at that time I had never seen any photos, much less originals, of Carrie Steven’s or anyone’s flies wired to cards. About eight years ago, I had a bunch of streamer patterns tied up for sale, and not wanting to use the staples, and wiring I thought, too time-consuming, so I used a small piece of scotch tape over the hook point to keep the fly in position. That worked alright, but the tape will likely deteriorate and discolor over time. Again, for fishin’ flies, it worked just fine. I have recently returned to the wiring method as being the most secure, and most attractive as well.

Gray Ghost and Big Ben

You know, when I first started tying the Steven’s patterns for framing in the early 1980’s, I used to use her “trademark” banded head. I simply believed it was the final detail to her patterns. Then for some reason I stopped doing it and didn’t do it for years. Actually I wasn’t tying many streamers anyway, after discovering the Wooly Bugger in the late ’70’s. The streamers I did tie were traditional patterns for use in Maine, since I first started fishing the Moosehead Lake area in 1986.

In 1998 the streamer chapter of over one thousand patterns was added to the book Forgotten Flies, for which I had replicated all the flies of all types from Ray Bergman’s books. I tied about 240 streamers for that chapter, plus I had already tied all the streamer and bucktail patterns that were published in Ray Bergman’s books. Most folks only know I did the wet flies, but I tied everything; drys, wets, nymphs, streamers, bucktails, and even the steelhead flies.

While some fly tiers may consider the banding Carrie’s signature, it is important to note that the colors she used are also integrated into the pattern design. She used different threads for the head and different colors for the band; like a red head with a black band on the Colonel Bates, black head with red band on the Gray Ghost and many others, a black head with orange band as on the Big Ben, and on the America, Casablanca, and Victory, what else but red, white, and blue. This triple-banded head is also on the General MacArthur. I suddenly asked myself: “How can I tie a General MacArthur with a black head?”

Can I make the head red only? Nope. Too distracting. White? Are you kidding? I think too overpowering. Blue? Uhhh…guess not. (I actually tied a general MacArthur last night, four days after I posted this – and the blue head didn’t look all that bad). Well, separately these colors may all match the pattern to a degree, but I think Carrie Stevens imagined and created her patriotic series of streamers with American patriotic colors in mind for finishing the heads.

And then I answered myself, “It’s gotta be red, white, and blue.”

Merry Widow and America

OK, so some may say that’s OK, in keeping with the theme of the patriotic pattern concept, but not on any of her other patterns.

I’m presenting more of my case here, please bear with me. Other known fly tiers, in particular Bill Edson (originator of the Edson Light and Dark Tigers, Bill Special, Dot Edson streamers), comes to mind. Bill designed streamers with different color heads; yellow, white, & silver for instance. In tying Bill’s patterns, would we be correct in changing the head color he specified? I don’t think so.

I know for a fact some won’t agree with me, but I just realized that if I’m tying Carrie Stevens’ patterns, then I think the fly should be true to her original design, right down to and including the head. I have become convinced of this, after years, a couple decades almost; of being in the camp of those saying “don’t copy Carrie Steven’s banded heads.

When Wendell Folkins bought the business from Carrie Stevens in the 1950’s, he continued to tie Carrie’s patterns with the banded heads. There are photos of Carrie’s patterns in the book Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, tied by Wendell. These are Carrie’s patterns, and when he replicated them and sold them to her customers, and to new customers he acquired, he used her head colors and the banding technique. Use of his technique was not forgery of Carrie Steven’s fly signature, it seems pretty certain that Mr. Folkins surely did it at Carrie’s request to indicate the patterns were of her origin or her variation.

So after years of being on both sides of this discussion, I think that designation ought to continue. I am doing the banded heads on Carrie’s patterns, and I will continue to do so.

The second box contains well-known Maine patterns; the Footer Special, Supervisor, Barnes Special, and Nine-Three.

Footer Special, Supevisor, Barnes Special, Nine-Three

The photos aren’t the best, but I was too busy today to really get intense with them…I hope you don’t mind. Thanks for reading this. I used Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style hooks, sizes #1 and #2, 8x long to dress these flies.

Footer Special and Barnes Special

Supervisor and Nine-Three

Jungle Cock Nail Feathers

On this Sunday morning, I am currently tying two Black Ghost streamers, in the process of tying two sets of the streamers from my DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. I am sending one set to Darren MacEachern of Canada, author of the Daily Fly Paper Blog, for inclusion in his Streamers365 Project. The other set is for Kevin McKay of http://www.maineflyfish.com. I donated a copy of my DVD to the forum for the site’s monthly raffle (this item is set for the August prize) and I told Kevin when I had breakfast with him last March in Brewer, Maine, that I’d also send him a set of the six flies from the video to go along with my donation.

Last night I tied two each; Mickey Finn and Footer Special. I’m using the Mike Martinek Gaelic Supreme hooks, #2 8x long. The first Black Ghost is done except it is patiently waiting for its cheeks. As I held a somewhat used jungle cape in my hands, I suddenly got an idea, which resulted in a diversion. Turns out the diversion was, shall we say, time consuming to say the least. (‘Bout time I wrote a new post here anyway, something with some substance). This idea started with my post on www.classicflytying.com Then the idea morphed into something larger which is manifested here. I ran across these packs of jungle cock nail feathers, in the photo, the other night while rummaging through my fly tying stuff, looking for something else. Isn’t that the way it is? At the time I just returned them to their little place in a drawer.

I decided that I’m actually going to use these feathers up, but I’ll probably save the pack intact with the price tag on it, because I have some other vintage fly tying stuff too. It would be nice to preserve these historic artifacts “as is.” One item in my possession is really cool – I have two unopened cellophane packages from E. Hille Co. – marabou feathers with hand-lettered labels, written in ink, clearly done in a woman’s handwriting, or perhaps a man with extremely delicate penmanship. It could happen, but I’m sticking to my assumption that it is feminine handwriting. Definitely a woman. These packages belonged to my dad, Donald R. Bastian, and were in his fly tying stuff that he gave to my brother, Larry, and me after a brief tying lesson when I was twelve years old. My dad stopped tying altogether before I was born. These packs date prior to 1950. Imagine the labor involved of hand-lettering and stapling labels to packages back then.

Anyway, I’m writing a longer story about this topic that I think is interesting – these packets of jungle cock nail feathers shown here are vintage stock from E. Hille – The Angler’s Supply House, formerly of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1936 – 2011. I bought them myself, years and years ago.

Memories of the good old days…

E. Hlle Angler’s Supply House was started in 1936 by Ernest Hille. He was from Germany, and spoke English with a thick accent. His wife also worked in the shop. Their daughter, Doris, and son-in-law, Bill O’Connor, also worked there. Ernie died back in about 1978, and his wife passed some years after. Bill and Doris ran the place until he sold it in the early 1990’s I think.

One of the local fellows in my home area, Robert M. Rinn of Muncy, Pennsylvania, and along with Ernie Hille and others, co-founded the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited back in the 1960’s. This is in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, near my hometown of Williamsport. The Susquehanna Chapter was the first Trout Unlimited Chapter in Pennsylvania. Bob knew Ernie and occasionally fished with him. He once told a group of us at a TU meeting how Ernie would take his wife along fishing. She would follow along the banks and wait on her husband hand and foot. Ernie would call her by name (which I can’t remember), and then instruct her; “Would you please bring me my pipe,” or some other menial task.

Hille’s was one of the first fly tying shops in the country to prepare fly tying kits for World War II veterans who needed “therapy” to help them recover from the devastating effects of the War.

At one time, Hille’s was the only place within a 75 mile radius where one could buy fly tying materials. Vince Marinaro, author of Modern Dry Fly Code and In the Ring of the Rise, for one, used to make the two-plus hour (at that time – the 1960’s roads), drive from Carlisle, PA, on occasion to buy fly tying materials at Hille’s.

Also interesting, the Carrot dry fly in the second edition of Ray Bergman’s book, Trout (1952), was submitted by Ernie through a local (Williamsport area) man who at the time was a young tier. His name is Albert Eschenbach, he was a contemporary of Bob Rinn, and also member of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited for many years, I’m not sure if Al is still living. Nevertheless, I recall a few years back on the Catskill Flies Forum, someone started a thread about the Carrot. Someone posted how they had tied some up. In desperation one fishless day on the Delaware, this person tied on the Carrot, where it was summarily taken by a large trout, which was lost because the strike so surprised the hapless angler that he struck too hard and broke the tippet knot.

Ernie’s submission of the (Bergman renamed) “Emergent Dry Nymph” (Dry Fly Plate, New Dry Flies, No 17, second edition of Trout), may well have been the first “no-hackle” dry in history. Surely predating Swisher / Richards…you can read the story from Ernie Hille’s letters, published in the second and subsequent editions of Trout.

Now, back to the jungle cock photo and topic; I learned tying largely through trial-and-error and from Bergman’s Trout, E. C. Gregg’s How to Tie Flies, Ray Overton’s Tactics on Trout, and other books. I tied traditional streamers and bucktails. My favorite list of these flies in the early 1970’s included the Gray Ghost, Mickey Finn, Black-nosed Dace, Black Ghost, Edson Tigers Light and Dark, Sam Slaymaker’s baby trout bucktails, the Yellow, White, and Black Marabou streamers, and one of George’s Harvey’s favorites, the Black and Yellow Bucktail.

To dress these flies, I bought packages of jungle cock nail feathers as in the photo from Hille’s. At that time, as illustrated here, ten to a package was the only way they were sold. At least that was Hille’s decision, because they knew some well-to-do fly tiers would buy the remaining stock of capes and there would be no more. Jungle cock feathers from existing stocks within the US borders at that time were legal to sell.

In the 1970’s I played drums in a rock band, having restarted this a year or so after I got married. Playing gigs most weekends, no kids yet, I always had $50 to $100 discretionary cash in my wallet. Our rent was $60 a month. One day I walked into Hille’s shop during an afternoon break from my truck-driving job. That dates this account after 1975 because I was driving for a now-defunct firm in Williamsport called E. Keeler Company. Keeler’s was established in Williamsport in 1865, and I worked for the supply division which sold plumbing, heating, electrical, and industrial supplies. When I walked into Hille’s that day I was amazed to see several jungle cock capes lying in the glass display case. This was the first time I had ever laid eyes on one, other than “the one” mounted in one of many of Hille’s two-by-four-foot glass-front display cases on the shop wall that contained one of every item in their inventory. What was even more amazing was the price tag – they were for sale at $20.00 each. That sounds really cheap now, but that was a lot of money back then. The yearly national average price of gasoline was $.69 cents a gallon in 1977.

Bill O’Connor, Ernie’s son-in-law, told me that the ‘Feds’ had recently announced that after the upcoming January 1st, (in just a few months) it would be illegal to sell any jungle cock whatsoever, single feathers or capes. A total ban on the sale of jungle cock feathers was the easiest path for efficient law enforcement. That is why the whole capes were for sale. Bill said, “Vince Marinaro just left, he bought five of these.” There was a bit of hesitation on my part; remember that at this time, the days predating the genetic hackle of Metz, Hoffman, & Whiting, the best grade capes were Chinese and sold for eight dollars. Temptation ruled the day and I bought four of those jungle cock capes for a total of $80.00.

A couple years later, while delivering in the State College area, I stopped at Flyfisher’s Paradise (when the shop was still located in the little village of Lemont), and co-owner Dan Shields was there that day – and this is the first time I ever saw Metz dry fly capes. He had some, grade #2, priced at $12.00each. I still had band cash in my pocket, but I was so used to paying $8.00 for dry fly necks, and this seemed like a lot of money for feathers. I remember Dan’s comment that sparked me to open my wallet – “Sure they’re a little expensive, but let me ask you this: Have you ever seen a better dry fly neck anywhere?”

No, I hadn’t so I bought a light dun and a ginger for twenty-four bucks. Those were the days…pardon the slight digression from the jungle cock story, but I felt this account was relevant to the topic.

Unfortunately, Hille’s had a fire this past year in their new South Williamsport location on March 4th. They were asked by the owner to move out almost immediately, because the man who owned their building was freaked out by wanting to get the insurance settlement and renovate the place as soon as possible. I guess he thought Hille’s business would be in the way. Hille’s was really thrown a curve by this tragic turn of events. Fortunately, it occurred on a Friday morning rather than at night, or the loss might have been total because the fire would have had more time to burn. One of their employees was in the shop at the time, smelled smoke, found the fire in an overhead ceiling area in their office, called the fire department, and in the interim used a fire extinguisher to quell the flames. Computers, office supplies, and inventory were affected by the fire extinguisher chemicals.

I have been informed that Hille’s is eventually going to relocate to Chester County, PA, and operate mainly as an internet business from a private residence. This is the end of an era, and sad to say, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, my home town, no longer has an active fly shop.

I can still recall old Ernie Hille, white hair, always dressed in a white shirt and a black tie as he waited on his customers; a large man, tall, and me as a teenager going in the shop; I was always a bit intimidated by him, but that’s another story.

Note the price – the late 1960’s and early 1970’s – these packs of 10 jungle cock nails were sold for $.75 cents each. I remember when these packs were $.50 cents, before the price increase as the one is labeled in the photo. L. L. Bean currently sells ten jungle cock nails in a pack like this for $10.95. They went from 7- ½ cents a piece to over a dollar each, an increase of about fifteen times the 1970 price.

Ah, the good old days…

Packets of Jungle Cock nail feathers from E. Hille Co., Williamsport, PA, circa 1970's

Cover of Hille's 1950 catalog. Photo taken through display case glass at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, New York. The address here was before my time, though this location would have been conveniently located within walking distance of both homes I lived in as a boy and young man. At this address I could have stopped by the shop on my way home from high school, though, perhaps that might have had unintended consequences. I knew Hille's at their Railway Street location, in the east end of Williamsport.

Don Bastian DVD’s and flies are for sale…

On May 2, 2011 I announced that I officially joined the internet site MyFlies.com. MyFlies is a site conceived, owned, operated, and managed by Sharon Butterfield. It is essentially an internet storefront for fly tiers, guides, lodges, authors, speakers, etc., all sharing the commonality of fly tying, fly fishing, and ordering flies tied by local and regional fly tiers.

Wet flies for fishing (or collecting – signature cards provided with orders on request) – tied by me, framed reproductions of the wet fly color plates in Ray Bergman’s book, Trout, and my three instructional fly tying DVD’s are for sale there. With time I will be expanding my pattern selection on MyFlies.com to facilitate quick and easy on-line ordering. This is a great aid to me since I do not have my own internet ordering / selling web site.

On the right side of this site under Favorite Site Links I have placed a tab that will take you directly to MyFlies.com where my instructional fly tying DVD’s and flies can be viewed, and purchased.

Purchasing arrangements with credit cards or Paypal can easily be made on the site. And the first single fly pattern I have placed there is the RSP; a great little streamer / baitfish pattern. For information on ordering the RSP please see the post on this site titled, Magalloway River Brook Trout Trio. Customer reviews and ratings of my work are also available.

Custom orders for Collector’s Edition wet flies, framed flies, and also fishing flies, whether nymphs, drys, terrestrials, soft-hackles, wet flies, streamers, bucktails – may be custom-ordered by contacting me directly via e-mail or phone. Thank you all for your support!